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Don't count your peppers before they're picked and other lessons from the garden

"The cool, dreary May meant that we kept pushing back our planting until it was a good week or two past the point we would have liked to have seeds and plants in the ground. But the weather warmed up, and we certainly haven't been dealing with drought."

Rows of red and blue planters in front of an area of trees and bushes.
In early June, Jenny Schlecht planted into old cattle supplement tubs and a small garden spot. Though the plants mostly have done well, she's lost out on early harvest to her daughters and seen a few plants eaten by wild creatures.
Jenny Schlecht / Agweek
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The 2022 harvest has begun in my little garden. Suffice it to say, it's not even a supplement to what we buy at the grocery store, but it's nice to have something.

First came the strawberries. We used an old cattle supplement tub and another planter to create a strawberry planter that we hope will come back next year. Tiny little fruit started ripening within a couple weeks. My daughters, naturally, have beat me to all of them. They have let me have the occasional nibble of a strawberry, but that's about it.

Next came the radishes. They weren't quite ready the other night — still fairly small. But I had told the girls they might be ready around the end of June, so we pulled up the four biggest ones, each with a diameter somewhere between a dime and a nickel. Luckily, my younger daughter decided they were "too spicy." So I got one.

I'm optimistic that I will get something out of the garden at some point, but at this point, a variety of creatures are beating me to the punch.

I planted a healthy little cabbage plant, imagining a variety of German-inspired dishes to come from it. Within a week, something had chomped off most of the leaves. It sort of looks like it's coming back, but I'm sure the deer or raccoon or whatever animal feasted on my cabbage is making plans to return for another course.

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Jenny Schlecht describes how two calves on her farm needed milk replacer to stay alive.

My two best pepper plants, likewise, have lost most of their leaves and all of their buds. I still have a half dozen others, but I am guessing their time is limited.

I am not alone in my plight. Something nipped off the tops of the cucumbers of my mother-in-law, not far from my peppers and cabbage.

Why, oh why, I think, did they not eat the watermelon plants? Those have barely grown since I planted them anyway, so something might as well eat them. But no, they go for the things to which I was particularly looking forward.

I think I am taking all of these losses harder than usual because everything looked so good after we planted quite late. The cool, dreary May meant that we kept pushing back our planting until it was a good week or two past the point we would have liked to have seeds and plants in the ground. But the weather warmed up, and we certainly haven't been dealing with drought.

There is still plenty to anticipate. More radishes and strawberries are close to ready. The squash plants are growing quickly, as are the peas, lettuce, carrots and green beans. The potato plants erupted the soil triumphantly and quickly after being planted and now are tall and strong. The sweet corn has stood up to the strong winds that began about the time their little plants emerged, and by the time you're reading this we should know if they've made it to knee high by the Fourth of July.

The farm fields around here are like that, too. Pretty much everything that could be planted was planted late, and some fields are still awaiting planting, probably to cover crops. The crops that are out there look pretty good. But there's a lot of time between now and harvest.

It's hard sometimes to remember in the beginning of the growing season that the payoff won't come all at once or even anytime soon. It takes time to see how things play out, and I shouldn't be planning recipes while still holding packets of seeds.

Instead, I should use this time after planting to put up a good fence.

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Jenny Schlecht is Agweek's editor. She lives on a farm and ranch in Medina, North Dakota, with her husband and two daughters. She can be reached at jschlecht@agweek.com or 701-595-0425.

Opinion by Jenny Schlecht
Jenny Schlecht is the editor of Agweek and Sugarbeet Grower Magazine. She lives on a farm and ranch near Medina, North Dakota, with her husband and two daughters. You can reach her at jschlecht@agweek.com or 701-595-0425.
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